The True Meaning of Compassion

I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it.
— Thomas Aquinas

"In formal debating, one of the first things you are taught is to define your terms. What's the point of debating the merits of compassion, for example, if all six people in the room hold different meanings of the word?

"But compassion is a funny thing. It has a dictionary meaning, of course, and it brings up fairly similar images in most people's minds. But it is one of those mysterious structures of the universe that, like its close relative love, is instead truly defined by its practice, not its meaning. To feel compassion, you must show compassion. It must be created from within.


• "A crash course in showing compassion would look something like this: Be a good listener, even to those considered dim and dull.

• "Look people in the eye when you're with them. This is the most effective way of showing you're genuinely interested.

• "Be an advocate for people who can't advocate for themselves. Always stick up for the bullied and the underdogs.

• "Befriend people you consider compassionate. Watch how they conduct themselves and what they say and do. Your life will be immensely richer because of it.

• "Spend a few minutes before you fall asleep each night reviewing your day. Look for places where you could have shown more compassion. Don't feel bad if you missed an opportunity. Simply vow to do better next time.

• "Practice, practice, practice."